Monday, June 9, 2014

"How could I take what I love and use it to sustain myself, to contribute back to society?"

Zihan Kassam is a burgeoning artist and art-writer in Nairobi, Kenya. With Trade Your Talent she speaks about taking the leap to become an artist, why she likes to paint semi-abstract nature and what it's like to grow with the Kenyan art scene.

© Zihan Kassam: Blushing in the Light

© Zihan Kassam: Comradeship
Why did you decide to change your career?   

I worked in Toronto for a long time, as part of the down-town corporate rat race. I loved my friends and the people I worked with but something was completely off. I’ve always painted, always written, so it was an organic decision. I needed to be doing something artistic.   

Describe the exact moment you took the leap?   

I asked myself how I could take what I love and use it to sustain myself, to contribute back to society? I decided to make a bold move; to move back to Kenya where the art scene was growing - and grow with it.     

What do you paint?   

I paint semi-abstract nature. Old trees, grassy fields, stormy skies, barns and swamps. I like the idea of an old world – a reprieve from civilization and development, a place to repose.  

© Zihan Kassam: Golden Haze

© Zihan Kassam: Yellow Fever

Did you ever think that one day you’re art would be known?   

I sure dreamt about it and work towards it. After so many years, it’s nice to have a little recognition from press or frequent buyers but for the most part I prefer hiding away.   

What is the hardest part of your job and how do you handle it?   

The hardest part is balancing the art and the stories. I try to keep focused on what is important to the local art scene, what is new and who shows serious talent.   

Tell us something strange about yourself.   

I despise phone calls, seriously.
What is your pet peeve?   

Being interrupted while I’m painting.   

© Zihan Kassam: Solitude I
Has your career taken any unexpected turns?   

Well, it’s been three years since my first solo exhibition in Kenya and it’s been going well.  That’s a pleasant surprise. Also, when I started my new career I remember thinking that it would be nice to write about art especially Kenyan contemporary painters. Now I’m about 70 articles in, mostly for The Star newspaper.   

Are you nervous about your next show? What is it?   

The next series is calledElysian Fields.’ It features large expanses of land, air and water where the mind can roam free. I’m worried it won’t do as well as The Bicycle Man. I’ve been battling my canvases recently but hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll manifest my visions. And yes, I’m always nervous before a show.   

What are you looking forward to in the future?   

With the spotlight on East African Art, I look forward to watching the art scene in Kenya evolve and being a part of that transition.

Find out more about Zihan on her website
The Resemble Project

Published Art Writing by Zihan appeared in:

Art Life Magazine, The Village Beat, UP Magazine, African Colours, The Star

Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Following your dreams" - Die Kleiderei

I think the biggest, but most exciting challenge for artists in the future will be to think about how they can turn their creative ideas into a business model. How can you turn your talent into a long lasting creative product, something that can have an impact on the community around you? One wonderful example I'd like to share with you is a project by Pola Fendel and Wilkening from Hamburg. Pola and Thekla met during high school in Cologne, currently they are studying Arts and Textile Management in Hamburg. In 2012 Pola and Thekla founded a creative business called “Die Kleiderei", where customers can rent clothes. "Die Kleiderei" became popular very quickly and they recently opened a second store in Berlin. Thekla and I have been friends since high school. We've always been sharing lots of creative ideas and we loved to write our own plays and novels in high school. Every time I meet Thekla I'm amazed how she manages to take care of her son, study and follow her dreams at the same time. With Trade Your Talent Thekla and Pola speak about what inspired them to start their own creative adventure with the "Kleiderei".  

What inspired you to start the "Kleiderei"?

Thekla and Pola: One Friday evening the idea of the "Kleiderei" just came to us. We  were excited to go out, but we felt we had nothing to wear at all. Usually we'd have gone out and bought ourselves new clothes. But since new dresses we'd buy spontaneously often turned out to be a mistake we thought: Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just borrow clothes, exactly for moments like these? We thought of a library , but for clothes!  We named it "Kleiderei" – the combination of the words library and clothing in German.  And we were sure that this problem was not only ours! Young people are constantly seeking for alternatives to shopping. 

Do you think more young people should just take the leap and start their own company?

Many people we know are very impressed that we had the courage to found our own company. But we never thought of it as being unusual or special; we just wanted to offer a solution to a problem - instead of waiting for someone else to solve it. I think that is the positive thing when young people take the leap and start their own company: they often know what the society lacks. Young people might have different needs than their parents or the older generation and the market isn’t always fulfilling these. On one hand we think we owe it to the world to create a new business, to implement new ideas and concepts. On the other hand it is also a very special experience to be an entrepreneur all of a sudden.

And we have already learned so much - not only good things of course. The process of founding is hard, at the same time we are lucky to have the opportunity to work on something we love. It has always been our dream to have a positive impact on nature and add to a sustainable world - this is why we want to offer an alternative to the current development in garment production, which is leading more and more to “fast-food-fashion”.  With the "Kleiderei" we are saving resources by keeping what is already there. 

Our dream goes hand in hand with making the world a little better.  There is no better feeling then when we’re working in our shop and one of our customers tells us that they have always waited for something like the “Kleiderei”. It makes us happy to be able to trade our concept with others and to see them enjoy it too. 

© Thekla Wilkening, Pola Fendel

© Thekla Wilkening, Pola Fendel

©Thekla Wilkening, Pola Fendel 
©Thekla Wilkening, Pola Fendel 

More about Die Kleiderei

Sunday, February 2, 2014

"Never stop pouring out your heart" Philosoulophy

Philosoulophy is a young pop/rock band from Hamburg. I discovered them a while ago during a walk - they had posted a very clever flyer about their music on a tree. "Going Back in Time" is the first single release from Philosoulophy's debut "Ocean e.p.", to be released in February 2014. With tradeyourtalent they speak about crazy video productions and why it's important to make music from the soul.


What's the story behind your band name Philosoulophy?  At first we experimented with the name of our lead singer Philipp O., starting out with the name PHILO. However, Philipp didn't want our music and band to be mistaken for a typical singer/songwriter band. Philosoulophy stands for our music and songs, into which we put real emotions and stories, stories with a background. We are convinced that, with authentic music, we can reach the same number of people as the big labels can. "Soul" in Philosoulophy stands for music with soul. 

What inspires you to your songs?
Many of our songs are created when we jam together. Our song texts are inspired by every day life or something in the past, like a lost love, which inspired the song "Going Back in Time". 

You just released your first video. How much fun was producing it?
Producing this video was fun from beginning to end. I think we have to release a making-of video along with it, so all of you can see how much crazy stuff we talk about and do....which obviously doesn't mean that we can't work professionally. (The video definitely proves this!)

What is it like to be on stage?
Once we are on stage it feels completely different to when we practice. It may sound cheesy, but we are at our best if we completely loose ourselves in the music and just feel the vibes. We always try to give everything and are completely wasted after a performance. But the audience has to know that we really mean it. After we played support for Jupiter Jones people came to us and told us "what an unmistakable power" we have on stage.

If you could give advice to young musicians, what would you say? Write as many songs as you can, never stop pouring out your heart, try to reach others with your music and give everything on stage that you can. You can do nothing wrong if you follow this advice, unless there are other influences, like growing up during the wrong time. Right now we feel that there is a lot of cheap and boring music out there, especially if you look at the charts. 10 years ago you'd find bands out there like Red Hot Chili Peppers or Jamiroquai. These bands gave everything, poured out their soul ... we definitely need more of that kind of music!  


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